Throughout my illustrious career as a writer (go ahead and laugh now), I have been approached by many aspiring columnists/bloggers who wish to know how one actually lands a gig getting paid to give their opinions. You’ve got to admit it’s a pretty sweet deal. With the economy doing a swan-dive and so many mommies growing desperate to earn an income while at home with their children, the question has grown increasingly common.
Exactly how does one parlay parenting into a paying gig? Could you, too, land a low-paying but high-profile job easily performed from home in your bathrobe?
In truth, writing is a perfect career choice for almost any parent. The balancing act of writing and parenting is very much the same.
As a mother – and as a writer – I stay up too late, accomplish virtually everything in 15-minute intervals while the children are otherwise occupied, and feel drained, exhausted, and desperately unappreciated. What’s not to love?
Sadly, the very thing that draws an otherwise sane person to the writing life will, very quickly, become the down side. I firmly believe most writers chose a writing career over, say, dentistry, primarily for the lure of working from home — preferably in their pj’s.
Therein lies the problem with working from home: it’s just so … homey.
What this means is that your great novel (or even churning out a pithy little blog post about the funny thing that happened on the way to the post office) will be endlessly complicated by the presence of children shouting about shoving and “turns.” Your writing will further be put off by reading requirements in a first grade textbook about how Manuel and Margaret put on a play. It will be interrupted by dinner dishes (or just plain dinner), and by dogs, and cats, and neighbor kids and the endless demand for clean laundry.
Parenthood, unlike prison, does not allow time off for good behavior. Worse yet, when working from home, you can’t have your assistant screen their calls for help.
The reality check? If you are nurturing the dream of writing from home for some future financial payoff, well then loathe as I am to stomp on your dreams let me give you some hard-earned advice from the trenches: give it up. Ditto if you are “doing it for the kids.”
Despite the obvious success of some high profile mommy-writers/bloggers, I think it only fair to say that the work is rarely easy. And it is unlikely, even if successful, that you will become as rich as you might have if you’d gone into dentistry — or panhandling.
I have further come to grips with the fact that my children will not recall the work-from-home mother who wrote at night, while everyone slept, in order to attend every field trip or field day. The one who brought — OK, bought — birthday cupcakes for their classes and stayed to make twenty-four bunny ears out of pipe-cleaners and felt. The flex-time mommy who dropped everything to produce the perfect jelly jar vase for a dandelion bouquet.
I don’t for a moment doubt that human nature being what it is, they will instead recall the mother who would screech, plaintively, “No I CANNOT play the My Pretty Pony game right now, Mommy’s WORKING!”
They will remember the one who once sought silence by shutting herself in the bathroom with a cordless telephone, crouching like a cornered animal inside the shower, so she could convince an editor, via long distance, that she was “professional.”
They will remember the time the three year old was “playing house” and in doing so was heard to mutter “doesn’t anyone respect a DEADLINE around here?”
Why, then, do so many of us do it, or hope to?
Perhaps because one day you might turn, in the middle of trying to wrest a paragraph into some semblance of sense minutes before deadline, to find that the “businesslike” letterhead that was going to make editors sit up and take notice of your obvious brilliance is gone. It has been spirited away and cunningly fashioned into a booklet (held together by some 1,100 feet of tape). This booklet consists of one letter painstakingly printed on each page (with some letters repeated page after page just to use up the $30-a-pop ream). As your fury at this trespass on your workspace rises, a small person might slide a finished “book” in front of you, her favorite editor. As you calculate your lost writing time, a permanently derailed train of thought, and the almost overwhelming allure of a career bagging groceries just to get away from the kids, you will, at last, read the title.
What has your own, little, in-house staff writer called this homegrown great work?
“I will not ever not love you! Love, me!”
Then you’ll know that the thankless underpaid-work-at-home gig has, if only for a moment, really paid off.
If you dream of turning a profit from home in any line of (legal) work – I want to hear from you. (If you’re engaged in something illegal you’ll need to email me privately, I’m intrigued). If you’d rather have your fingers run through an electric pencil sharpener than work-from-home I want to hear from you too! Coping skills, commiseration, and anecdotes are cheerfully welcomed.
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